A Dialogue in Quotes

Next week I’ll be posting my newest writing project – A Dialogue in Quotes. I was inspired to do this project as I was working on a poem for Rattle, ‘best left unsaid.’ My coworker came in with a picture of her with Thomas Merton (!!!) – her mother had corresponded with Merton some years ago, and she was able to meet him and have lunch with him at Gethsemani one summer.

In essence, the dialogue will place particular esteemed personages in a conversation (of sorts) with Donald Trump, arranged topically, juxtaposing quotes from each, using only the words of the person/Trump. My only two hints on how to read the project are this – the people involved, and the topics (see list below). Each day’s post will come out at 11am CST next week.

I hope you all enjoy it!


  • Donald Trump (businessman, reality TV host, 45th president of the US)
  • Thomas Merton (Cistercian monk, mystic, future saint [I hope])
  • The Holy Bible (holy book of Judaism in the Old Testament, Christianity in its fullness, KJV)
  • The Qur’an (holy book of Islam, Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation)
  • Barack Obama (44th president of the US)
  • St. Silouan the Athonite (a Russian Orthodox monk, ascetic, and saint)
    Topics covered in each conversation

  • pride
  • ambition
  • happiness
  • life
  • love
  • purpose
  • strength
  • temptation
  • oneness
  • peace
  • imagination
  • art
  • personhood
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    Sample from one of the pieces:

    When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
    My whole life is about winning. I don’t lose often. I almost never lose.

    As I Recall…

    Clyde was threatened by the specter of memory. His very existence in jeopardy from a fear caused by the memories of all those he associated with, thought of, and knew. The memories of friends. The memories of lovers. The memories of everyone remembering someone other than him. Remembering someone better than him. We can never measure up to memory.

    There were his parents, whose memories of his significantly older brothers overshadowed everything he did. Clyde’s parents married later in life, for a second time each. In the prime of their lives, with their first loves, they raised sons. Sons they dearly loved. Sons they remembered fondly. Idyllically. Sons who hung the stars and lit the day sky. Sons who became friends after their parents met. Sons who died together, tragically, not-drunk-driving. Clyde was the replacement. “Why can’t you be more like…” The chorus of his youth, Greek tragedy-style. Imitate the brothers you never knew. His existence under the roof of his parents had only that purpose – replacement. Ultimately, a failure. He ran away young, haunted by memories not his own.

    There was Janine and the memories of her 15 previous lovers and 2 former husbands that weighed on him every time he saw her, went down on her, made love to her. Clyde wasn’t old-fashioned, prudish, or judgemental, but reality sometimes overshadows those things we’ve held dear. Called by the wrong name (a time or two) in the throes of passion. Reminded occasionally, usually while drunk, of the sexual prowess of certain former lovers. Fearful of the concepts that uncertain men roll around in their minds when not otherwise occupied – “am I enough to satisfy forever, especially when compared to…,” “am I good enough for her to not look elsewhere…,” “am I handsome enough…have money enough…smart enough…sexy enough…interesting enough…everything enough?” He’d never had any indication that anything was wrong in their relationship, but the memories weighed on his soul. He contemplated leaving daily, taunted by memories not his own.

    There was his best friend Brent, whose previous friends were much better looking, wealthier, funnier, and of course, most importantly, much better wingmen when out at the bars. Clyde spent most of his life married, and then a disinterest in relationships so intense as to be unhealthy overwhelmed him. He loved conversation, particularly with attractive (and hopefully) intelligent women, but that didn’t translate into buttering up hotties for Brent to bed later. He worried that Brent would move on, befriend a better wingman, inspired by memories he loved to recount of conquests out of his league.

    There were, finally, his children, whose memories of their recently deceased mother were the focal point of most of their conversations with their father. Memory cleanses. Or rather, perhaps more accurately, when trying to cope with devastating loss, rewrites the past, which becomes a picture book to fondly gaze back on. The conversations were on repeat, day after day, as they acclimated to the new situation of living with their father. But the dialogue reminded him only of one thing – the lie that wove itself through the marriage, ultimately causing divorce. His memories of that deception clouded his every interaction with his children, placing her above anything he could hope to build with them.

    There were also his own memories. The memory of Clyde. Unable to recall mundane things, like the name of his waitress, his favorite bottle of wine, a birthday, even the name of a book – he was, however, cursed with an inability to forget certain experiences. What had he seen, done, and heard? Ask him, and with the right prompting he would be engulfed in the memory until joy or pain had run their course. His memory worked similarly with books – never remembering names or details (until conversational situations reminded him), but he could talk about the story forever. The actions of life, like the movement of a story, he was unable to forget. Even if the order of memory was often corrupted, the words and images were burned into his brain. Perhaps words stuck because of his obsession with reading and writing…regardless, primarily pain remained. Parents disappointed, adults disobeyed, love lost, lovers crushed, siblings betrayed, progeny abandoned. His own memory, more poignantly than that of other, was killing him.

    Yet day after day he awoke, certain (yet not prepared) to create another memory that he’d be unable to forget. Unable to excel. Unable to moderate. Unable to fail.

    Unable to forget.

    Cursed be he above all others who is enslaved by Memory.

    Memory takes the place of brothers; Memory takes the place of parents; Memory brings us war and slaughter, hate and love, pain and fear, life and death.

    I both remember and do not remember; am mad and am not mad.

    [inspired by 2 quotes from Anacreon]

    4 sisters

    4It’s been just over a month since I’ve managed to post anything on this blog…over the course of the past month I have read very little (it’s the first time in forever that I haven’t finished a single book in such a long time), written no book reviews, but I have managed to turn out several dozen poems and a few short stories. I’m not exactly thrilled with the shape of those days, but at least they have a shape.

    4 sisters

    how can dad being home
    be such a terrible thing?
    [for the ones who understand]

    1-a bit somber
    eating chips
    no smile…

    2-good softball game last night
    big smile
    munching chips
    shakes her head no
    when asked
    ‘are you glad dad’s home?’

    3-moderate mood
    obviously down
    [what is going on]

    4-really bad
    no smile – at all
    no response
    [even after winning last night’s game]

    this should be a great day – dad’s home!
    but it’s [to me] astonishingly terrible

    we never know what goes on
    behind closed doors
    in the privacy of one’s own home
    [though I fear it’s often sad]

    20 May 2009
    © Matthew E. Jackson
    written after hearing a very sad story from 4 sisters

    National Poetry Month – Day 24 – ‘oh’

    dfwI’m thrilled that I decided to create posts about poetry for this year’s National Poetry Month. I know that I’ve missed a day now and then over the course of the month, but I’ve been reminded of something I’ve known for many years – I adore poetry. I love reading it; I love hearing it; I especially love writing it. I’ve read through so many poems this month, renewing my relationship with poets I love, and renewing my energy for my own writing. Not a bad way to spend April 2015.

    And without further ado, an original poem for the final Friday of National Poetry Month 2015.

    If you’re interested in other things I’ve written – posts on this blog can be found here, and my ‘freelance writing’ site here.

    View all of my National Poetry Month 2015 blog posts!


    i think i’ve figured something out. (he said)
    what’s that? (she said)
    i’m not a very happy person. (he said)
    what do you mean? (she said)
    i thought i was miserable because of my job, or my circumstance, or money, blah, blah. but i don’t think so. after the last year, i really think i’m just an unhappy person. (he said)

    © Matthew E. Jackson

    National Poetry Month – Day 17 – ‘risk’

    riskKeeping to my decision to post an original poem every Friday of this month…I went ahead and did some revision on this older poem [which I virtually never do], though I think I’m still not 100% satisfied.

    View all of my National Poetry Month 2015 blog posts!

    If you’re interested in other things I’ve written – posts on this blog can be found here, and my ‘freelance writing’ site here.


    flooded by reality my
    emotions overflow –
    the things I swore would never be,
    they are,
    and back again.

    chased by ghosts of past and present
    [future, already dead]
    a h[a]unted man
    laughs slowly,
    turns his head.

    our decisions bring:


    is this necessary?
    is this construct right?

    perhaps these questions have no answers:
    bukowski writes that we have no guts,
    no originality,
    so we just follow along in the groove life has worn for us.

    repetition sans boldness,
    leads man to madness.
    yet status quo leads as surely
    to death.

    which risk?

    written 3 September 2009, edited 17 April 2015
    © Matthew E. Jackson